Reading Experience Database

Basic Search

Advanced Search

Record 27841

Reading Experience:

Eliza Fenwick, a touring actress, to her mother, also Eliza Fenwick, 'Barbadoes, May 2nd [1812], Morning, 10 o clock,' describing her experiences following a nearby volcanic eruption: 'At this time yesterday morning we thought ourselves on the verge of eternity, & waited in total darkness & almost uninterrupted silence the expected shock which was to destroy us [...] It began, I believe, about two o Clock on Friday morning [...] I thought it the longest night I had ever known, & was watching for some appearance of daylight that I might get up, when Margaret came into my room, & told me, in a voice of terror, that it was past 7 o Clock. It was totally dark [...] I went into the balcony & felt that it [italics]rained[end italics], as I thought, but returning into the room I found I was covered with wet sand or ashes [...] Everyone thought an Earth-quake was coming [...] Mr R[utherford]. borrowed from Mr Ford, our next neighbour, the younger Pliny's account of an irruption of Mount Vesuvius, & read it. Pliny describes a fall of dust or ashes previous to the great shock. We all, I believe, thought the shock was coming [...] After breakfast I proposed going to Church, but none but my two companions in wickedness [Miss Simms and Mr Rutherford, who had also wanted breakfast, while the rest of Fenwick's companions slept, wept, or stayed silent with fear] were willing to join me [...] My next plan of of reading prayers was not better approved of. Mrs D[yke]. preferred the more pious amusement of abusing us to her black Confidant Margaret [...] Mr R. read the bible in his own room, I the Morning Service to Miss Brailsford in mine [...] We passed an hour in this manner, & met again to wonder at the still encreasing darkness'.
Century: 1800-1849
Date: 1 May 1812
Country: Barbados
Time: morning
Place: n/a
Type of Experience (Reader):
silent aloud unknown
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown
Type of Experience (Listener):
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown

Reader/Listener/Reading Group:

Reader:Mr Rutherford
Age Adult (18-100+)
Gender Male
Date of Birth 1781
Socio-economic group: Professional / academic / merchant / farmer
Occupation: Actor
Religion: n/a
Country of origin: n/a
Country of experience: Barbados
Listeners present if any:
(e.g. family, servants, friends, workmates)
Eliza Fenwick junior, Mrs and Mrs Dyke, Miss Simms, Miss Brailsford (all fellow members of touring theatrical company).
Additional comments: n/a


Text Being Read:

Author: Pliny the Younger
Title: account of eruption of Vesuvius over Pompeii
Genre: Autobiog / Diary
Form of Text: Print: Book
Publication details: n/a
Provenance: borrowed (other)


Source Information:

Record ID: 27841  
Source - Print  
  Author: n/a
  Editor: A. F. Wedd
  Title: The Fate of the Fenwicks: Letters to Mary Hays (1798-1828)
  Place of Publication: London
  Date of Publication: 1927
  Vol: n/a
  Page: 109-110; 110
  Additional comments: n/a

Citation: A. F. Wedd (ed.), The Fate of the Fenwicks: Letters to Mary Hays (1798-1828) (London, 1927), p. 109-110; 110,, accessed: 24 August 2019

Additional comments:

Reader's date of birth approximate; Rutherford (who later married Eliza Fenwick jr) mentioned in source as being aged about 31 in 1812.



Reading Experience Database version 2.0.  Page updated: 27th Apr 2016  3:15pm (GMT)